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GIVEAWAY: HerringboneHearts w/ Bloggers Off-Line

I’m sure by now, most of my loyal readers have heard of Bloggers Off-Line, but for those of you that haven’t, Bloggers Off-Line is a fun way to make other blogger friends through snail mail! It’s as simple as this: you sign up by filling out a short questionnaire, I review your answers, pair you with someone similar in age or with similar interests, and you start receiving fun letters/care packages/ notes from one another!

So far it has been a success! And as a reward for all of the lovely bloggers participating and as a way to spread the word to everyone else who may be interested, HerringboneHearts and I have paired up to give away a personalized stationery set of six flat note cards and lined envelops in navy, blossom, and mint based off of this set!

I was so excited to receive my very own stationery set in the mail. Amy from HerringboneHearts makes beautiful, preppy handcrafted cards. I may not know that much about the art or be a skilled crafter, but it’s easy to recognize the quality and care put into the cards/envelops. I can’t wait to send these to my own pen pal! Want some for yourself? Enter the giveaway below from August 18th until August 24th at midnight for a chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want to order your own set? Check out my other favorite here

A special thanks to Amy at HerringboneHearts for making this all possible and supplying these beautiful cards! Happy writing.

A Day in the Windy City

Throughout the school year when we were anxiously awaking the time when we could be together for three whole months (we go to school an hour and a half apart), Ty and I made a list of fun things to do together! One of them being Chicago. With the end of summer quickly approaching, we kicked it into high gear to finish everything we wanted to do, but being scheduled to work 11-4 for seven days straight didn’t give us much time to do anything.
Lucky for me, however, a co-worker of mine was in the search of some more hours… and I had plenty to give, so Tyler and I were able to go anyway! Below are a few pictures from our trip taken off my iPhone. Even though I should get over not wanting to lug around my big camera that takes beautiful pictures, my iPhone really did impress me on this trip. Two thumbs up apple!
^^ This was both Ty and I’s first time at Grant Park. I didn’t even know it existed before yesterday!
Grant Park was nice because:
-there were far less people there than the other “touristy” attractions
-it was something different than the usual stops we make in Chicago
-it’s a great photo opp!  See below vv
^^ I think this is my absolute favorite photo from the trip
Chicago is a beautiful city; I couldn’t have thought of a better way to spend my day off. Days like this remind me how important it is to not let work overwhelm your life. Even when you think you can’t do it, there is always time to relax, have fun, and spend time with the people you love.

Interview with an Etsy Seller: Valmichaels

As some of you may know, it has been a desire of mine for a while to open up my own Etsy shop. I currently use it to sell my blog designs, but it hasn’t gone much farther than that. It is, however, still a dream of mine to some day run a full-blown Etsy shop. In order to get some insight into what it takes, I was able to interview the lovely Valerie, owner of Valmichaels, who has been selling stylish, colorful napkin rings through Etsy since 2012. Here’s what she had to say:

Why did you first open your shop?

It was a combination of having left over ribbon from making D-Ring napkin rings for my own wedding reception in 2011 and developing and running my own business. I am also a stay at home mom of two children (Brock 4 and Breckyn 2) and pregnant with baby #3 who keep me busy. I do miss working in a corporate setting however I can still put my business skills to good use through my Etsy shop.

Had you been making napkin rings for a long while before or was it a sudden decision to make revenue?

I was in love with these D Ring napkin rings when I was planning my own wedding reception. After searching the internet they were to expensive to buy, so after some research I found all the materials I needed to make them at an affordable price. After the reception was over I decided to use the remaining ribbon to make napkin rings and sell them in my Etsy shop.

How much time do you put into your shop each week?

Depending on my Etsy order work load I spend between 10-15 hours a week. This includes marketing on my Facebook fan page, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and forecasting my next ribbon color choices.

What are some things you like/dislike about Etsy?

I love Etsy for the fact that they promote custom, one of a kind, handmade items made by artisans all over the country. I opened my shop in 2012 and there have been some great changes for shop owners to enhance customer service (shipping refunds, faster product picture uploads, customer friendly review options).

Why Etsy? I know there are fees. Would you ever try selling on your own site?

I had heard of Etsy a long time ago when it wasn’t well known . I loved that they sold handmade items and that anyone could have a store. A good friend opened a shop on Etsy and she was talking very highly of it so that is why I decided to give Etsy a try. I have thought about Amazon.com and I did have some listings on Ebay but no longer use the site. I have also looked at opening up my own website but I love that I am able to help people and create napkin rings in any color to fulfill a customers needs. I think finding and creating exactly what a customer envisions is the best part of running my business.

What are some of your favorite shops? Do you buy from Etsy frequently? Do you appreciate other’s work more now that you know how much effort and work it takes?

Yes, not only am I a shop owner but I also buy from Etsy as much as possible. I would rather see my money go to individuals rather then a big box corporate retailer. I also belong to several groups on Etsy and love promoting products and my favorite shops on my Facebook Fan page and also Pinterest boards. I can’t live without my colorful Crochet Mug Cozies from Quite Crafty, adorable children’s apparel from Shooting Stars Art& Photography and my Knot earrings from BohoM.

Is ValMichael’s just a side job? Would you ever consider trying to craft full time?

Yes it is a side job and I love running my business. I have received just the right amount of business for my lifestyle. However, my first priority is my family. Once my children are older I would definitely consider putting more work into Valmichael’s and taking the next steps.

How big of a role do you think social media plays in making sales and getting your product out there?

I believe that social media is the way now to sell! You have to be everywhere to get your name out to potential customers.

You’ve been selling for a while now. What advice would you give to people like me who are just starting their shops?

Make a Instagram, Twitter and Facebook business account. Post your work/products everywhere. Connect and reach out to others. Find shops and people who are in the same kind of industries as you and ask them if they would be interested in doing cross marketing. Its FREE! I have a friend I met on Instagram who owns her own table decorating business (Table Decorate Celebrate) and shop in Australia. I mailed her sets of my napkin rings in exchange for her pictures she has taken of my product. I promote her and she promotes me! Its a great way to get attention and make connections everywhere. I also reach out to my friends who own businesses. I currently have a set of my napkin rings with business cards displayed in Midland, TX at my best friend’s makeup studio (Let’s Face It Makeup Studio). I have also donated my napkin rings to events such fundraisers and book release parties.

A huge shout out and thank you goes to Valerie for taking the time and putting in the effort to talk to me. Make sure to check out here site here or find her on social media: Twitter, Facebook.

My Almost Vegan Cupcakes

It’s a cold and rainy day here in the Prairie State, so I spent the day inside, making Shape.com’s Vegan Chocolate Chai Tea Cupcakes. My cupcakes were “almost” vegan, because I used normal butter, and then, of course, I added the chocolate toppings (one of which was milk chocolate chocolate chips).

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Here are the changes I made to Shape.com’s recipe:
Ingredients:
For the cupcakes:
1 c. almond milk
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. and 2 tbsp. Truvia baking blend
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. light maple syrup
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
For the frosting:
1/2 c. unsalted butter
3-4 c. powdered sugar
2 chai tea bags
1 tbsp. boiling water
3 tbsp. almond milk
1/4 tsp. salt
The instructions, however, I followed almost exactly except that I baked my cupcakes for 15 minutes, because I made minis (yielding 24).
They are absolutely delicious! Everyone I shared them with loved them. My boyfriend ate three before I could even get home from dropping them off (and he doesn’t even like sweets!).
All of the changes I made were very minor; most were just personal preference. The exchange of a tsp. vanilla extract for light maple syrup was simply because I ran out of vanilla, but they turned out great! I’ll be writing this one down in my recipe book for sure.
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It finally stopped raining, so I could take a few pictures outside! Yay!
Yesterday I bought a new camera, so I was stoked to be able to practice a little with it today. Expect more pictures to come; I can hardly put the thing down. I am absolutely in love with it!